History of the House of Lords

The second chamber of Parliament is steeped in an eventful history which has shaped today’s House. Here are some key dates in the evolution of the Lords

21st century

2011: A draft bill on House of Lords Reform was published in May 2011 by the deputy prime minister. It set out proposals for a House of Lords made up of 300 members (80 per cent elected and 20 per cent appointed). The draft bill was referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses. In September 2012, the government announced it was dropping the bill.

2010: The Coalition Government published an agreement in May, stating that a group would be appointed to bring forward proposals for an elected House of Lords. The group, which consisted of front-bench spokespeople from the three main political parties, was to prepare a draft bill.

2009: The House’s judicial function is transferred to the new UK Supreme Court. Law Lords became the first justices of the Supreme Court.

2006: The House holds its first election for a Lord Speaker and Baroness Hayman is elected on 4 July 2006.

2005: The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 separates the House’s judicial function from Parliament and ends the Lord Chancellor’s combined role as head of the judiciary, a member of the executive and Speaker of the House of Lords.

The 20th century

1999: The House of Lords Act 1999 removes the right of most hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House. During the passage of the legislation an amendment is accepted, enabling 92 hereditary peers to remain until further reform is proposed.

1968: The government abandons its Parliament (No.2) Bill which suggested a two-tier House of created members who could speak and vote and others who could speak but not vote.

1963: The Peerage Act 1963 allows hereditary peeresses to be members of the House, hereditary peerages to be disclaimed for life and for all Scottish peers to sit.

1958: The Life Peerages Act 1958 permits the creation of peerages for life. Around the same time allowances for peers’ 'out-of-pocket’ expenses and the system of ‘leave of absence’ for members are introduced.

1949: The Parliament Act 1949 reduces the delaying power of the 1911 Act for some public bills from two years to one year.

1941: The Commons chamber is destroyed during the World War II. The Lords give up their chamber to the Commons and use the Robing Room when they sit.

1922: Elections for Irish representative peers cease.

1911: The Parliament Act 1911 limits the powers of the House of Lords by stating that money bills can become law if not passed without amendment by the Lords within one month and that the Lords cannot veto most bills but instead can only delay them for up to two years (or one month in the case of money bills).

1909: The Lords rejects the Liberal government’s budget. The Liberals then introduce a bill to end the power of the Lords to reject legislation approved by the Commons.

19th century: The Bishopric of Manchester Act 1847 (and later acts) limits the number of bishops entitled to sit to 26. Retired bishops cannot sit or vote in the House. The Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876 creates the judicial functions of the House of Lords and enables the sovereign to create Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (Law Lords) to continue to sit and vote. They were, in effect, the first ‘life peers’.

18th century: The Acts of Union with Scotland (1707) and Ireland (1800) create a single parliament for Great Britain and then for the United Kingdom. The acts entitle Scottish and Irish peers to elect representatives to sit in the Lords.

17th century: In 1642 during the Civil War, bishops are excluded from the House of Lords but return under the Clergy Act 1661. In 1649, after the Civil War, the monarchy and the House of Lords are abolished. After Charles II’s restoration (1660) the House is reinstated. The 1689 Bill of Rights establishes Parliament’s authority over the king.

16th century: After the 1539 suppression of the monasteries, only bishops attend the House and the Lords Temporal form a majority for the first time.

15th century: Lords Temporal attend the House of Lords on an almost entirely hereditary basis. ‘Peers’, as they became known, are accountable to each other and divide into five ranks: duke, marquess, earl, viscount and baron.

14th century: Two distinct Houses of Parliament emerge. Representatives from the towns and counties began to meet separately as the House of Commons. Archbishops, bishops and sometimes abbots and priors (Lords Spiritual) and noblemen (Lords Temporal) form the House of Lords.

13th century: Attendance includes representatives of counties, cities and boroughs.

11th century: Parliament originates in the Witans – an Anglo-Saxon political body made up of councils consulted by Saxon kings and attended by religious leaders, magnates and the king’s ministers.

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